Northern Italian airports gradually resume flights

09:20, April 21, 2010      

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Airports across northern Italy started to resume flights on Tuesday after the European Union decided to free up airspace.

Italian air space fully reopened at 12 a.m. local time Tuesday after days of closure, following a volcanic eruption in Iceland last Wednesday. But many cancellations remained as meteorologists warned that volcanic ash from Iceland had began hovering over Tuscany and would spread across the rest of Italy by Wednesday.

Orio al Serio International Airport in east of Milan looked empty on Monday when all flights were suspended. Tourists were stuck in Milan as Italian travelers remained stranded across Europe. Just a dozen tourists inside the airport were waiting for a bus that had been supposed to leave for London at 4:30 p.m.

"My husband and I managed to catch a train from Rome to Milan, but once here we found out that our bus had been delayed," an English woman, Jenny said, "So we are waiting for another one which should leave from here at 8:30 p.m." Some other tourists, including four from Taiwan of China, were patiently waiting for the same bus.

Not everybody was in Italy for vacation.

"We came to Italy a week ago to take part in a funeral and were supposed to leave after a day but we are still here," said a young woman who was traveling with two cousins.

Maurizio was one of the anxious passengers. He expected to fly to Casablanca on a business trip only to know his flight had been cancelled.

He complained that the Italian aviation authority ENAC was not doing enough to assist passengers despite hanging a "Your rights" poster inside the airport.

"They don’t even answer the phone," he said.

Orio al Serio airport press official Eugenio Sorrentino said Tuesday that the ENAC issued a note on its website to inform travelers of the gradual opening of Italian air space.

He also said Ryanair gave optimal assistance to all passengers.

"They could choose to have their tickets refunded or to rebook for free", Sorrentino said, "Cots have been provided in the past days to sleep safely inside the airport.

"Some national flights have been resumed, we are waiting for the first Alitalia (flight) to fly to Rome’s Fiumicino (airport) at 11:00 a.m.," he said.

Some Italian media said airports won’t restore normal operations before Thursday. The situation was still chaotic at Milan’s Malpensa International Airport where passengers complained that information was confusing. Some authorities insisted there was not sufficient testing to judge whether flights were safe or not.

The Italian railway operator, Trenitalia, said it has arranged dozens of additional trains to cope with the flight ban and is working with other European rail authorities to increase the number of international journeys.

Flights to and from Europe started to resume Monday as the European Union decided to free up airspace, giving relief to passengers stranded around the world following the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

Source: Xinhua


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